Morning Sickness During Pregnancy: A Guide to Causes, Concerns, Treatment

Marked with nausea, queasiness, and vomiting, morning sickness is an indication of pregnancy.  It can happen anytime during the day around the 6th week into pregnancy. Traced to hormonal changes with the onset of pregnancy, morning sickness is also triggered by sensitivity, stress, emotional disturbance, fatigue, and genetics. The problem resolves on its own around the 15th week of pregnancy and rarely warrants any medical intervention.

Morning sickness is common in pregnant women

Morning sickness usually has no effect on pregnancy, but it can make your life uncomfortable, leading to reduced ability and enhanced health concerns.

About 80% of pregnant women experience morning sickness. Vomiting is the most common symptom, with every 3 out of 5 women suffering from it during pregnancy. One in 10 continues to experience it even after the 20th week of pregnancy while 1 to 2% of women are at the risk of hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of sudden weight loss.

Morning Sickness: What

Morning sickness refers to nausea and vomiting that occurs at the early stage of pregnancy. The name is due to higher intensity of symptoms in the morning hours. Though symptoms slacken off as the day progresses, it may strike at any time.

The most common symptoms of morning sickness include nausea and vomiting. While 75% experience either of the two symptoms in the first trimester, at least 60% have vomiting. Queasiness, feeling of sickness, electrolyte disturbances, dehydration, headache, secondary anxiety, and aversion to eating are also common. Some women experience more intense symptoms than others.

Morning Sickness: When

A pregnant woman may experience morning sickness at any time after 5 weeks following conception. It may impact a few women in the 4th week. The symptoms worsen in the following weeks before peaking up between 8th and 12th weeks.

Morning sickness symptoms ease up after the 12th week, and by the 15th week of pregnancy, these are almost absent in most women. However, a few women experience mild nausea until the 20th week.

Morning Sickness: Why

The most plausible cause of morning changes is thought to be hormonal changes caused by pregnancy. However, not all women experience it, and those who have it exhibit symptoms in varying degrees. While many are able to weather it with only occasional queasiness, some have continued nausea for days. Vomiting can be a one-time affair, or you may experience many frequent bouts during the day.

Such variation in symptoms has led to further research on potential triggers, including:

  • Release of pregnancy hormone hcg by the placenta.
  • Rise in estrogen and progesterone hormones that slow down digestive muscles
  • Increased sensitivity in brain
  • Emotional stress that may cause gastrointestinal upset
  • Recurring physical fatigue
  • First-time pregnancy burden
  • Lack of adequate nutrition and skipping meals
  • Family history
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Morning Sickness: Who Are at Risk

Those with the following existing conditions are at enhanced risk of morning sickness. These risk factors may also contribute to worsening symptoms.

  • Prior history of pregnancy with morning sickness
  • Recurrent nausea and vomiting even before pregnancy
  • Carrying a female fetus (according to a Swedish study)
  • Instances of similar symptoms in other family members
  • Preexisting motion sickness
  • Obesity and higher maternal weight
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Use of estrogen-releasing contraceptives
  • First-time pregnancy
  • Carrying twins
  • Enlarged placenta
  • Molar pregnancy

Morning Sickness: Concerns for Baby, Mother

There is no established link between morning sickness and pregnancy complications that may cause harm to your baby. Generally, mild to moderate symptoms do not pose any risk. However, its prolonged and intense effect could pose health and wellness challenges for a pregnant woman.

Morning sickness can be dangerous when it can wear you down. An exhausted mother at the receiving end is unable to take care of herself and her baby. Dehydration also sets in leading to other complications unless given due attention. Aversion to eating results in a lack of nutritional support, and it is a cause for concern for fetal development. Headaches, dizziness, and fatigue can easily set in. Overweight women with recurring vomiting symptoms may require hospitalization and greater care.

Progression to Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Less than 2% of morning sickness cases have a chance to progress to hyperemesis gravidarum. Women with this disorder have more intense and constant nausea and vomiting, causing rapid dehydration and weight loss exceeding 5 pounds.  Eating disorder, obesity, and thyroid problem make the progression from morning sickness to hyperemesis gravidarum easier.

Patients are more likely to have jaundice-like symptoms, blood in the vomit, sleeping disorder, malnutrition, depression, and increased need for medical care. Such women are unable to carry out day-to-day activities. They are at an increased risk of constipation, increased fatigue, subconjunctival hemorrhage, extreme sensitivity, and anemia.

Morning Sickness: Resolution, Treatment Options

In most cases, morning sickness resolves on its own as pregnancy progresses beyond the 12th week. Medical treatment is limited to controlling symptoms and does not offer a viable option if you have moderate symptoms. However, those with more intense and frequent sickness can go for nausea medication. Be attentive to potential side effects of medicines during pregnancy.

Self-care measures provide the most potent option to inhibit sickness symptoms. Frequent intake of fluids helps you remain hydrated while the intake of a small amount of food at regular intervals reduces frequent episodes of vomiting. You can suck ice cubes or eat dry and savory foods. Avoid having an empty stomach. Take astute care of yourself to keep away from triggers.

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Ginger and vitamin B6 supplements cut down on the occurrence of morning sickness symptoms. Acupressure treatment also has some effect in reducing the frequency and intensity of morning sickness.

Tips To Tackle Morning Sickness

  • Don’t keep your stomach empty, as this may increase nausea.
  • Have small meals more often and frequent intake of small amount of water or juice.
  • Do not take water or juice immediately after meals. Keep at least a 30-minute gap between meals and drinking.
  • Remain hydrated, but avoid excessive sugary or caffeine drinks.
  • Avoid spicy, acidic, and sweet foods. Replace them with cold meals and dry and savory foods.
  • Don’t eat anything that you does not find appealing.
  • Allow your body to have plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Sniff lemon or ginger. Ginger supplements help control morning sickness.
  • Avoid hot, temperate weather. Suck ice cubes or lollypops.
  • Stay active with daily moderate exercise. Take care of your weight and avoid the chances of obesity.
  • Never skip meals or lie down after eating your meals. Eat early.
  • Don’t remain awake until late into the night. Sleep early and get up early.
  • Avoid eating fatty, greasy food and start the habit of morning walk.
  • Use complimentary approaches, such as acupressure and relaxation therapies.
Ravneet Kaur
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Ravneet Kaur

Ravneet is a proficient author on mindful parenting, child psychology, and pregnancy-related issues. Her practical writing focuses on helping parents develop a compassionate understanding of child behavior and build strong family bonds. She also researches and writes on women’s health, pregnancy problems, relationship issues, teens, and child development and education.
Ravneet also blogs at
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